On CK Oliver’s blog, I write on queer tragedy tropes, trauma porn, and the decisions I made to not be lazy and exploitative with Winterglass.
Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard that in Chechnya, they’re rounding up gay people and putting them in concentration camps. Recently it came out that gay singer Zelimkhan Bakaev has, most likely, been tortured to death in such a camp.
This is the reality for queer people; this is happening in the real world. But in the popular imagination, of television shows and epic fantasy and science fiction, such an event is just another trope to tug at the heartstrings of and thrill the cisgender, heterosexual audience. It’s just another trope to make cisgender, heterosexual creators feel good and socially aware; it’s just another trope to make them feel radical, daring. It’s just another trope. Here’s a queer character, she lives under mortal terror of being rounded up, stuck in a concentration camp, or — as in the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, in a scene aired to critical acclaim— watching her lover hanged and then being genitally mutilated. This, popular media wants to tell you, is what it means to be queer: constantly terrified, miserable, brutalized, sexually assaulted and then finally dead.
Don’t forget to check out CK Oliver’s Daybreak Rising!
Ana Mardoll was very kind and hosted my post, Reverse-Engineering Eternity: The Puzzle of the Snow Queen where I went into decisions I made with a fairytale retelling and on the themes of the innocent, pure girl pitted against a seductive ice queen.
It’s a very Christian story (Gerda literally dispels the Snow Queen’s enchantments with Christian prayers). The Finnish woman doesn’t remark on her endurance or strength: it is Gerda’s purity alone that she praises, and Gerda’s purity alone that — she asserts—compels and charms all into serving Gerda. Vinge has an interesting take on this, where her Gerda figure Moon Dawntreader does win through kindness and empathy rather than purity, and there’s mileage to be had from stories where kindness and empathy are the guiding principles (Steven Universe, Puella Magi Madoka Magica). But so often what happens is that writers position Gerda as the virgin, the queen as the whore, the way it happens in any story where a powerful woman is pitted against a younger, naiver one: just look at Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), Disney’s own take on Snow White (1937) or Sleeping Beauty (1950) or The Little Mermaid (1989).
Ana has written urban fantasy, Poison Kiss, that’s focused on an all-queer cast.
At The Future Fire, I consider how Nasuverse reconfigures Arthuriana into its own separate canon, dislocated from Britishness: Fairytales Told Twice, and the Idylls of the King.
This more than anything is what keeps me interested: that a team of writers (ever-expanding) would take a body of legend that is considered quintessentially English and then discards its Englishness entirely. It’s not something that white, western writers do — even limp retellings like Avalon High cleave to British origins, with the protagonists’ parents as professors of Arthuriana studies. Several darker-and-grittier fantasy makes a point of distinguishing the various English/British identities, down to the regional distinction between Caledonian and Saxon and Scottish or what have you, all distinctions that Nasuverse never even thinks about because to Japanese writers, all white Britons are more or less the same, belonging to a single amorphous culture (so much so that Lancelot being French is beside the point, he’s lumped in with the rest of the Round Table).
The Future Fire also very kindly interviewed me.
My friend J. Moufawad-Paul graciously hosted me for a guest post: Narratives of Exclusion.
(He’s the author of Continuity and Rupture, among other things, which makes socialist philosophy quite accessible–quite crucial, I think–and is really incisive to boot.)
If you read Winterglass, you may — or may not, depending — notice that nobody in it is white. Not even the Winter Queen. Or, more accurately, particularly not the Winter Queen.
The idea of the wintry monarch (all their fairy-queen variants) is popularly linked with western cultures (though far from unique to them), and The Snow Queen itself was written by a Danish author. The fear of a winter that never ends is European. And it is a story about colonization, a land taken over by a climate for which it was never built, a killing climate. The Winter Queen could have been white — most tranformative iterations of her are — but that would have necessitated that I wrote Winterglass around whiteness. Nuawa and Lussadh would exist in opposition and in relation to that whiteness.
I got interviewed! The Unpublishables is an Asian pop culture website and I got a super neat set of questions to answer: on Winterglass, writing while Asian/of color, and more.
Many POC writers, including our contributors, have felt the pressure by agents, editors, and publishers to write about our cultures in a way that fits in with the larger Western idea of diversity (eg. themes like the struggle between the “restrictive, traditional East” and the “free, modern West”, exotic elements, or whitewashed characters). Do you have any suggestions or advice about that?
I once recommended my Hong Kong urban fantasy, Scale-Bright, to a white reader. He asked ‘Is there kungfu in it?’ It was an alarming reminder that most white people can communicate with POC only through stereotypes.
Next, B. R. Sanders very kindly hosted my post, The Rightful King on Her Rightful Throne, where I talked about revolution, lineage, and the romance of the ‘good’ monarch.
But, because this is fiction (and the package is so attractive), I still find myself gravitating toward the glamour of it, to the romantic but destructively flawed ideal held by Urobuchi’s character that kingship is a service. We come to why one of Winterglass’ protagonists General Lussadh al-Kattan used to be a prince.
(Their book Ariah I found very good and they have exceptional finesse with characterization. I recently picked up their new book, Extraction, which I expect I’ll quite enjoy.)